Five homers back solid pitching
For all the concern about the injury-depleted Yankees pitching staff, the guys on the mound are doing a more than serviceable job. David Phelps followed his teammmates’ two shutouts at Citi Field this week with five more scoreless innings Saturday at Yankee Stadium against the Pirates to steer the Yankees toward a 7-1 victory.
The scoreless streak of 23 innings ended in the sixth when Pittsburgh left fielder Starling Marte turned on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Dellin Betances for a long home run to left field. Betances proceeded to strike out the next three batters, marking the third straight inning he had struck out the side. The righthander from Brooklyn is doing his part to make up for the loss to the disabled list of Shawn Kelley.
Betances got some help from shortstop Derek Jeter to get an out without a strikeout in the seventh. Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ catcher, led off with a drive off the wall in right-center. Brett Gardner playing center field did a nice job taking the carom and an even better job with a throw to Jeter, who tagged Sanchez. Second base umpire James Hoye called Sanchez safe despite Jeter’s protest. A review of the replay backed up the Captain, who also had a good day at the plate with a couple of hits.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also issued a challenge of a call at second base in the fourth inning when Phelps and Jeter collaborated on a pickoff of Marte. Hoye got it right this time. He called Marte out, and the replay supported the original decision.
Phelps, who scattered five hits, three walks and a hit batter, lowed his ERA to 3.33 and picked up his first victory of the season. He could be more economic; 100 pitches are a lot for five innings, but it is fair to say for someone who began the season in the bullpen Phelps is stretched out as a starter now. The righthander has been particularly effective at the Stadium where he has held opponents to a .218 batting average in 385 career at-bats. Phelps is 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in his past three starts at the Stadium.
The Yankees relied on the long ball for all their runs on five home runs. The first four were off Pirates starter Edinson Volquez. Mark Teixeira followed a single by Jeter in the first inning with his ninth home run of the year. The other jacks off Volquez were all leading off innings by Zoilo Almonte in the third, Gardner in the sixth and Alfonso Soriano in the seventh. Volquez has yielded nine home runs in 49 2/3 innings this year.
Brian McCann, who was having a miserable day at the plate (two strikeouts and an infield out on a bunt), got the Yankees’ fifth homer of the game in the eighth on a two-run shot off righthander Vin Mazzero.
Almonte was a last-minute substitute in the lineup because Jacoby Ellsbury was sick with the flu and Ichiro Suzuki still has a sore right knee and back. Funny how that works out sometimes. Suzuki played right field in the ninth inning, an indication that he is close to coming back full speed
With nine home runs in his 23 games and eight in his past 17, Teixeira has put to rest speculation that the wrist injury that cost him a large chunk of the 2013 season would compromise his power swing.
“There was some concern until you see it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We didn’t see him let the bat go until the last week of spring training. We missed him a lot last year. It’s good to have him back.”